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MIT Research News

November 26, 2019

Better guides for medical-image analysis

Model quickly generates brain scan templates that represent a given patient population.

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office

MIT researchers have devised a method that accelerates the process for creating and customizing templates used in medical-image analysis, to guide disease diagnosis.

One use of medical image analysis is to crunch datasets of patients’ medical images and capture structural relationships that may indicate the progression of diseases. In many cases, analysis requires use of a common image template, called an “atlas,” that’s an average representation of a given patient population. Atlases serve as a reference for comparison, for example to identify clinically significant changes in brain structures over time.

Building a template is a time-consuming, laborious process, often taking days or weeks to generate, especially when using 3D brain scans. To save time, researchers often download publicly available atlases previously generated by research groups. But those don’t fully capture the diversity of individual datasets or specific subpopulations, such as those with new diseases or from young children. Ultimately, the atlas can’t be smoothly mapped onto outlier images, producing poor results.